The small but vocal groups of protesters that have dogged Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau at his political rallies are disrupting his messaging, according to pollster Nik Nanos.
“It’s been a distraction for Trudeau. He’s not been able to get his message out,” Nanos said on Wednesday’s edition of CTV’s Trend Line podcast. “These folks are punching above their weight.”
From the outset of the campaign, groups of protesters have regularly visited Trudeau’s events to express their anger over COVID-19 vaccines and other pandemic measures.
While the majority of the protests have been mostly peaceful, things took a turn on Monday when protesters pelted the Liberal leader, members of his security detail, and journalists covering his campaign with gravel in London, Ont.
Although no one was hurt, London police said they’re investigating the incident.
In the event’s aftermath, Trudeau was repeatedly asked about the incident and the level of security at his rallies during stops in Ontario and Quebec at the beginning of the week.
“I think it’s had an impact on the Liberal campaign and the Liberal messaging for sure,” Nanos said. “These folks are basically on a mission to defeat Justin Trudeau and to disrupt his campaign and, at least in terms of disrupting the campaign, they’re doing a pretty good job because he’s talking about them.”
Even though the protesters are stealing the spotlight from the Liberals’ policy pledges, Nanos said they have also given Trudeau the opportunity to come out strong against their behaviour and potentially earn more support from those who are opposed to violence on the campaign trail.
“I don’t think Canadians had any problem with those individuals coming out and protesting any political party leader, including Justin Trudeau, but as soon as you start throwing gravel or whatever, you cross that line,” Nanos said.
Trudeau has become increasingly vocal in his criticisms of the protesters at his events in recent days, describing them as “anti-vaxxer mobs” who are “practically foaming at the mouth” in anger.
“They want to make their shouting and their aggression override democratic processes… We will not let them win,” he said during an announcement in Montreal on Tuesday.
The Liberal leader wasn’t alone in his condemnations, with Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, and People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier all denouncing the violence this week.
Despite the condemnations from the major federal parties, Nanos said the protesters’ tactics may be working if the polling numbers are any indication.
According to Nanos Research’s nightly tracking data conducted for CTV News and the Globe and Mail, which was released on Wednesday morning, the Liberals dropped 2.5 points from the day before with 31.6 per cent support and are currently in a statistical tie with the Conservatives at 32.6 per cent support. The NDP is trailing behind at 21.1 per cent support, followed by the BQ at 5 per cent, the Green Party at 4.4 per cent, and the PPC at 4.3 per cent.
Nanos said that while the Liberals have taken a hit in the polls, the Conservatives have also seen their slight lead over the Liberals dwindle in recent days, which he attributes to all of the attention on the party’s stance on gun control. He said he suspects the Conservatives recognized their support was slipping on this issue, which is why they chose to amend their election platform to maintain a 2020 ban on some firearms, instead of repeal it like they initially planned.
“They probably wanted to put a spike into that as soon as possible by doing a little modification to their platform. It doesn’t happen very often,” he said.
As for who Canadians prefer to be their next prime minister, the nightly tracking data shows Trudeau with a small lead with 29.9 per cent support, followed by O’Toole at 26.3 per cent, Singh at 21.1 per cent, Bernier at 4.8 per cent, Blanchet with 2.9 per cent, and Green Party Leader Annamie Paul at 1.9 per cent.
A national random telephone survey (land- and cellular-line sample using live agents) of 1,200 Canadians is conducted by Nanos Research throughout the campaign over a three-day period. Each evening a new group of 400 eligible voters are interviewed. The daily tracking figures are based on a three-day rolling sample comprising 1,200 interviews. To update the tracking a new day of interviewing is added and the oldest day dropped. The margin of error for a survey of 1,200 respondents is ± 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The respondent sample is stratified geographically and by gender. The data may be weighted by age according to data from the 2016 Canadian Census administered by Statistics Canada. Percentages reported may not add up to 100 due to rounding.